22 Av 5781 / Saturday, July 31, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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HomeFoundations of JudaismJewish Daily Life and HalachaTurning Bitter into Sweet
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Turning Bitter into Sweet    

Turning Bitter into Sweet

Tongues are just as sharp as swords. Spilling the blood of another person - even the simplest person in society - is a heinous crime and close to irreparable...


Translated by Rabbi  Lazer Brody

There are so many challenges in our generation. I don't remember a time when their have been so many children with terrible diseases; so many people with dire financial problems; so many families with educational crises and rebellious children. And, on a national level, the threats are acute from without and within. Borders that for decades were quiet are now dangerously heating up. Our enemies lurk in the shadows with unconventional weapons. And, on the domestic front, our Torah values and entire system of education face an unprecedented challenge.
The Gemara says emphatically that there are no tribulations without prior transgression. If so, what could we possibly have done to bring that whole list of stern judgments against us?
The answer is simple. We can trace any bitterness in our lives to wagging, uncontrolled tongues.
Hashem, who is a magnificently loving parent to us, His children, cannot stand when one person causes pain and sorrow to another person. Lashon Hara, evil speech, therefore triggers stern judgments. This is no laughing matter or something to dismiss with a perfunctory wave of the hand. Many stern judgments, such as a person's inexplicable lack of ability to find a soul mate or to have children, can be traced back to a violation of the laws of wholesome speech. People forget the Chafetz Chaim's guide to Shmirat Halashon - guarding one's tongue. They don't realize the seriousness of the commandments between man and fellow man, particularly loving one's neighbor as oneself, avoiding to cause anguish to one's fellow human, taking care not to harbor hate against someone and many others that the Chafetz Chaim elaborates on.
Tongues are just as sharp as swords. Spilling the blood of another person - even the simplest person in society - is a heinous crime and close to irreparable. If someone's guilt has not been proven in a court of law with two legitimate witnesses, one may not speak about that person. To do so is a violation of Torah.
The holy Tanna Rebbe Shimon ben Shatach was the Av Beit Din, the Chief Justice of all of Israel. He saw a person with a drawn sword chasing another person. He ran after the two until he reached an alley-way. The victim was already on the ground, fluttering and about to die. Blood dripped from the assailant's sword. Rebbe Shimon told the assailant, "You evil person, who killed this man, you or me? What can I do, for I cannot bring you to trial, for the Torah demands two witnesses" (Talmud, Sanhedrin 37b). Rebbe Shimon ben Shatach could not try the murderer, but that doesn't mean he went free. When a court down here can't try a person, the Heavenly Court tries the person and justice is much more severe. It wasn't long before the killer suffered an excruciating death after being bitten by a poisonous snake.
If Rebbe Shimon ben Shatach couldn't convict a person despite the overwhelming evidence, then why do we allow ourselves to repeat hearsay, gossip and things that haven't been proven in a court of law or a Bet Din? That's dangerous.
Newspapers and journalists judge people and print hearsay all the time. They too are required to observe the Chafetz Chaim. Any person who spreads hate and hearsay, purveying gossip and social venom in the world, has no place in the world to come. Therefore, be extra careful about what you say and write. Stay away from the gossips, for spiritually, they're like terrorists.
The vast bulk of the stern judgments leveled against us can be traced to forbidden speech. Stern judgments make life ever so bitter. Only teshuva and the love of our fellow man can take the bitter and turn it into sweet.
By guarding our tongues, we guard ourselves and our loved ones. Now's the time to learn and/or review the Chafetz Chaim. Let's turn the bitter into sweet, amen!

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  There are so many benefits to shmiras halashon- if we knew them we'd rush to obtain it!
Anonymous,3/8/2015 2:13:29 AM

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